Trees with Four Seasons of Interest for your Garden
Spring Garden, Summer Garden, Fall Garden, Winter Garden
Create a garden that commands attention throughout the year by selecting trees that excite interest month after month and provide a ravishing show throughout all four seasons.
The following list provides information about trees that are ornamental through all four seasons. Find more spectacular trees with our Plant Finder.
Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple)
Noted for its exfoliating bark and showy fall color, award-winning Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) is a small spreading deciduous tree that is highly desirable. The chestnut-brown bark of both its trunk and branches constantly peels into thin, tight curls, revealing brighter cinnamon-red wood beneath. Even the youngest stems contribute to this pleasing peeling bark effect. Equally attractive is the foliage of three-lobed leaves, typical of most Acers. Dark green above, but frosty blue-green underneath in spring and summer, the delicately textured leaves turn brilliant red and orange in the fall before shedding for the winter.
Acer triflorum (Three-Flowered Maple)
Noted for its ravishing exfoliating bark and showy fall color, award-winning Acer triflorum (Three-Flowered Maple) is a small deciduous tree that is a real treasure in the landscape. The light ash-brown bark on both its trunk and branches peels in vertical strips, revealing pale copper-brown wood beneath. Equally attractive is the foliage of trifoliate leaves. Green above, but gray-green underneath in spring and summer, it turns brilliant red and orange in the fall before shedding for the winter. Densely branched with an upright, roundish habit, this slow-growing maple tree is an outstanding four-season tree.
Amelanchier alnifolia (Serviceberry)
Domesticated for fruit production, Amelanchier alnifolia (Serviceberry) is a deciduous, upright, suckering shrub with four seasons of interest. In mid-spring, compact clusters of fragrant, white flowers emerge just before the leaves. Attractive to pollinators, they are followed by small, sweet, blue berries in early summer. They make great jellies or jams and are appreciated by both birds and humans. The foliage of small, light-green, sharply and coarsely toothed, oval leaves, turns to brilliant shades of orange and red in the fall. The plant remains attractive even after the leaves drop, thanks to its elegant growth habit and its light gray bark adorned with charcoal-gray striations. Serviceberry is attractive as an ornamental shrub or may be trimmed as a pretty hedge.
Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry)
Early-flowering, Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry) is a large deciduous shrub or small tree of rounded habit boasting a profusion of 5-petaled, showy, slightly fragrant, white flowers in early to mid-spring. Borne in drooping clusters, they appear before the leaves emerge. Attractive to pollinators, they are followed by small, round, tasty, dark purplish-black berries in early summer. Resembling blueberries in size and color, they taste like those of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and are often used in jams, jellies, and pies if not eaten by the birds. The foliage of finely-toothed, obovate leaves emerges covered with soft, woolly hairs that disappear as the leaves mature (hence the common name). Rich green in summer, the leaves, up to 4 in. long (10 cm), turn fiery shades of yellow, orange, apricot, or dusty red in the fall. The smooth, gray bark is streaked with longitudinal fissures and provides an excellent effect in winter. Native to eastern North America, Downy Serviceberry grows on a variety of sites from swampy lowlands to dry woods and sandy bluffs. It also grows on rocky ridges, forest edges, and open woodlands and fields. Very easy to grow, Downy Serviceberry provides year-round interest in the garden and is most effective in naturalistic plantings and along wood edges, ponds and streams.
Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian Serviceberry)
Amelanchier canadensis (Canadian Serviceberry) is a dense, upright, multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree with a delicate, dome-shaped crown. In mid-spring, attractive erect sprays of small, slightly fragrant, white, star-shaped flowers emerge just before the leaves. Attractive to pollinators, they are followed by small, edible, blue-black berries in early summer. The berries are used in jams, jellies, and pies and are appreciated by both birds and humans. The foliage of mid-green, finely toothed, oval leaves, turns to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall. The plant remains attractive even after the leaves drop, thanks to its elegant growth habit and its light gray bark adorned with charcoal-gray striations. A terrific plant with four seasons of interest, to use around ponds, lakes, and streams, or in boggy or marshy ground.
Betula nigra (River Birch)
Betula nigra (River Birch) is a bushy deciduous tree prized for its incredible peeling bark. Salmon-pink, smooth and shiny at first, the bark flakes and curls in cinnamon-brown to blackish sheets. Vigorous and fast-growing, this birch has a large, pyramidal, upright habit and bears diamond-shaped, glossy green leaves with silvery undersides, which turn yellow in fall. Perfect for wet soils, this birch can tolerate locations with drier soils and is perhaps the most culturally adaptable and heat tolerant of the birches.
Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree)
Prized for its beautiful shape and attractive foliage, award-winning Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura Tree) is an elegant, single or multi-trunked, deciduous tree with an upright, pyramidal form when young, becoming more rounded with age. The dense foliage of broadly heart-shaped leaves, up to 4 in. long (10 cm), emerges a beautiful reddish-purple in spring, matures to blue-green in summer, and turns attractive shades of gold, orange and red in fall. As an added bonus, the foliage smells like cinnamon or burnt sugar on warm fall days, when the leaves are falling, and when new growth appears in spring. Tiny flowers appear in spring before the foliage unfurls, but they are not particularly showy. Katsura Tree remains attractive even after the leaves drop, thanks to its graceful, pyramidal silhouette and its brown, slightly shaggy bark. A great landscape tree for shade that is lovely through the seasons.
Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud)
Providing four-season interest, Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud) is a deciduous shrub or small tree of great beauty. In spring, its silvery-gray branches contrast beautifully with masses of brilliant magenta flowers which are attractive to hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other native pollinators. The cheerful blossoms give way to long, purple-brown seed pods which adorn the branches in summer. They create the illusion of having a twice-blooming tree in the garden. Emerging fresh apple green, the foliage of rounded, heart-shaped leaves, darkens to blue-green in summer, before turning golden yellow and rust red in the fall. As the leaves drop, they reveal the pleasing silver silhouette of this Redbud. Most often grown as a small, multi-trunked tree or shrub, the compact growth habit of Cercis occidentalis makes it suitable for small gardens.
Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry)
Remarkably ornamental and adaptable, Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) is a deciduous shrub or small tree providing multiseason interest. In late winter to early spring, a profusion of small rounded clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers open on the naked branches and will persist for several weeks. The showy blooms are followed by attractive glossy red, cherry-like fruits in midsummer. Edible, they may be used for syrups and preserves. Bushy, this small to medium-sized flowering tree sports oval dark green leaves which turn purple in the fall, before shedding to the ground and revealing the rough, rich brown, exfoliating bark.
Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' (Green Hawthorn)
Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' (Green Hawthorn) is a dense, rounded, deciduous tree with a broad spreading crown and silvery-green branches clad with lustrous, serrate, ovate to elliptic, dark green leaves. Unlike most hawthorns, this selection is mostly thornless, with only occasional small thorns, 1 in. long (2.5 cm). In late spring, a profusion of fragrant, white flowers held in clusters (corymbs) provide a spectacular spring floral display. The blossoms are followed by large red fruits in fall that usually persist on the tree well into winter. Edible, they can be harvested to make jelly or left for the hungry birds. The foliage turns attractive shades of purple and scarlet before shedding to the ground, revealing the vase-shaped branching structure and the exfoliating orange bark on older stems. Excellent choice as a small ornamental tree or for use against an evergreen background, where the silvery stems and persistent red fruit are more conspicuous. Winter King is noted for its disease resistance.
Fagus sylvatica (European Beech)
Native to Central and Southern Europe, Fagus sylvatica (European Beech) is a beautiful, large, deciduous tree with a densely pyramidal to rounded-spreading crown. Its foliage of broadly elliptic, lustrous leaves (4 in. long or 10 cm), is pale green when young, dark green when mature and turns rich russet and golden brown colors in the fall. Branching to the ground, its smooth, gray bark is truly stunning in the winter landscape. In mid-late spring, small, yellow-green flowers are on display. They are followed by bristly fruits which ripen in the fall and are edible. Smaller and more amenable than Fagus grandifolia (American Beech), European Beech has been widely planted in Europe and North America for centuries. It makes a superb shade tree or specimen tree for a large landscape. Excellent for hedges and screens.
Larix decidua (European Larch)
A sight to behold in the fall, Larix decidua (European Larch) is a large deciduous conifer of elegant beauty. It features an upright, conical form when young, becoming broad with age. In older trees, the branches tend to droop in a graceful manner. Unlike most cone-bearing trees, European Larch loses its foliage each winter. Among the earliest trees to come into leaf in spring, its vivid green needle-like leaves, sometimes blue-green in summer, turn butter yellow to old gold before being shed in the fall. Small, erect, conical cones, variably flushed red when immature, turn brown and open to release their seeds when mature. They persist on the tree for some time. Fast-growing and very hardy, European Larch makes a wonderful specimen in a large landscape where its pristine bright green spring foliage and lustrous gold fall display can be admired.
Prunus sargentii (Sargent's Cherry)
Charming in all seasons, Prunus sargentii (Sargent's Cherry) is a small, deciduous tree with many ornamental qualities. In spring, clusters of lovely, pink to deep pink, single flowers, 1.4 in. wide (4 cm), appear before the leaves unfold. They are followed by a profusion of sour purple-black cherries which ripen in early summer and attract hungry birds. Reddish tinged as they emerge in spring, the serrate, ovate leaves mature to glossy dark green in summer, forming a dense canopy casting shade below. In fall, they turn various shades of orange, bronze, and red before dropping. Sargent's Cherry sports a lustrous, almost polished-looking, mahogany-colored bark with prominent horizontal lenticels (bumpy lines). A graceful ornamental tree with an upright-spreading to rounded habit, which exhibits greater staying power than most Prunus.
Find a more comprehensive list of spectacular trees with our Plant Finder
|Plant Family||Amelanchier - Serviceberries, Acer - Maples, Cornus - Dogwoods, Fagus - Beeches, Larix - Larches|
|Season of Interest||
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
|Plant Family||Amelanchier - Serviceberries, Acer - Maples, Cornus - Dogwoods, Fagus - Beeches, Larix - Larches|
|Season of Interest||
A Beautiful Fall Border Idea with Dahlias, Verbena and Grasses
Very attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and birds,...
A Colorful Summer Border Idea with Hibiscus and Grasses
Get inspired by this colorful garden idea noted for its...
A Four-Season Border with Evergreen Conifers and Japanese Maples
While a single Japanese maple can provide a striking focal...
A Charming Plant Combination for Shady Gardens: Hydrangea, Japanese Maple and Boxwood
Easy on the eyes, this simple and elegant plant combination...
A Singing Mediterranean Pathway
This beautiful flagstone pathway is planted with a palette...
An Elegant Summer Garden Idea with Hydrangea, Rose and Astilbe
Rich in texture and interest, this elegant summer garden...
A Serene and Elegant Border Idea for your Garden
This naturalistic woodland garden is a 'vision of romance...
A Lovely Raised Bed Idea with Grasses, Blood Pinks and Sage
Colorful and rich in textures! Create stunning, easy care,...
An Easy Care Mediterranean Garden Idea
Looking good all year long, this Mediterranean garden...
A Sparkling Tropical Garden with Architectural plants
Quite colorful, this tropical garden is low maintenance and...
A Lovely Spring Border Idea with Japanese Maples and Flowering Cherry Trees
This colorful garden scene is to be enjoyed over 3 seasons...
A Lovely Mediterranean Path
Adorned with lavender in full bloom on either side, this...